Arts in Depth: Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco Artist Fellowship and Residency Programs

by Admin on 03/28/2014

The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco’s two programs that fold local artists within the museum programming, the year-long Artist Fellowship and month-long Artist-in-Residence, have fostered dynamic, innovative relationships between the museum institution and the San Francisco arts scene outside its walls. By encouraging artists to interact with the museums in other, and more powerful ways than student or viewer, these two programs have redefined points of entry into the museum unit. Renee Baldocchi, Director of Public Programs at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, shares with San Francisco Art Enthusiast the rich history and vibrant culture of the Residency and Artist Fellows programs.

“The Artist Studio program began in a very different format at the old de Young in 1998.  It was a week-long residency… People would happen upon Gallery One and find an artist working in the space,” Baldocchi says as she explains the inception of the program. The construction of the new de Young museum building held a prime opportunity to reconstruct and expand its programming, which Public Programming began to do even while relocated. “When the de Young closed on January 1, 2000 for the re-build, the Education Department moved to 26th Avenue and Irvine into a store front and we put the artist in residence studio in the front window of the space.  We also changed the program so that the artist would work with us for an entire month.” In this way, the museum prompted the public and passers-by to engage in the artistic process. The Legion of Honor was also used to engage the Artist Studio program with museum audiences: “Every Tuesday, the artist set up their studio in gallery 10 at the Legion of Honor. We often hosted their reception during the evening or on weekends at the Legion,” Baldocchi explains. “Everything was morphing and changing during this time period.  It was an extremely important and productive time for public programs to experiment with new prototypes for the artist-in-residence program.”


Black Rock Arts Foundation presents Friday Nights at the de Young in celebration of the Urbanauts. Photo by Adrian Arias

When the de Young Museum opened its new building in fall 2005, the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco’s Friday Nights at the de Young began. The museum was able to pursue the creation of artist-centric programs due to generous funding from the James Irvine Foundation and a Wallace Excellence Award.  Because this program series was successful, the James Irvine Foundation granted the museum an additional grant called The James Irvine Foundation Innovation Fund, which specifically supports the more recent Artist Fellows program.  Baldocchi says the Irvine Foundation grant offered funding for “12 fellowships that would each last one year and would allow the fellows to become staff at the museum, explore their work in bigger ways than usual, utilize various spaces at the museum and at offsite venues and have more resources and exposure given to them by the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco as well as receive support from an official collaborating partner.  Each fellow was supported by FAMSF and at least one collaborating partner…” In addition, the museums recently received a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services to the Artist-in Residence program to  provide artists with more financial support and website exposure. Whereas the Artist-in-Residence program is open to all artists by way of an application process, the Fellowship program is by invitation only. Current Artist Fellow Adrienne Heloise, whose work will be on view in Paper and Blade: Storytelling Under the Knife says, “The fellowship is great because it is so open to experimentation, and there are opportunities to get behind the scenes and tour the Achenbach, and meet so many incredible people who work for the museum. The best perk has been the unlimited access to the museum, because I chose to recreate work from the de Young’s American collection during the residency.” Baldocchi enthusiastically recalls just one of the highlights of the Artist Fellowship program. “Monique Jenkinson’s performance of Instrument at CounterPULSE — she really went for it and grew as an artist,” she says.

The Fellowship and Artist Studio programs were constructed in a way to ensure an engagement with artists and audiences on two unique and effective levels, while also being appropriate for the individual interests of chosen artists. “The Artist in Residence program, a month long opportunity for artists to work in the Kimball Education Gallery focuses on interaction with the public,” says Baldocchi. “The month long Artist-in-Residence program has an open application process and a jury that reviews applications three times a year.” These residences sound more ideal for artists who are interested with consistent audience engagement within a short-term project, and might be an emerging or mid-career level artist. The Artist Studio is also included in the popular Friday Nights at the de Young 8 months of the year. Baldocchi recalls memorable moments in the residence’s history: “Black Rock Arts created an amazing Friday Night at the de Young last fall in celebration of the Urbanauts,” Baldocchi recalls. “Past Discoveries and Future Relics and $teven Raspa curated a gorgeous, mysterious, exciting Friday Night with artists activating the outside areas of the museum. It was phenomenal.”

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Making Scenes by Monique Jenkinson. Photo by Adrian Arias

The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco’s Artist Studio and Fellowship programs are also innovative in the broad net cast for participants, which has led to a multidisciplinary approach to the program. Whereas many residences in the Bay Area and museums are designed for visual artists, FAMSF’s programs’ past participants included visual artists, dancers, instrumentalists, choreographers, aerialists, and much more. “We are now known as a museum who experiments with a variety of disciplines as opposed to only being interested in the visual arts,” Baldocchi says proudly. “Every time we work with a performance artist or an artist other than visual, we evolve.”

The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco conducts these two programs with the main goal of engaging with current, local art and artists in unique and imaginative ways. “95% of the artists we work with are from the greater San Francisco Bay Area,” Baldocchi says. “These programs have been the starting point for bringing artists more into the center of the museum’s mission. In addition, Friday Nights has become a main initiative for the museum to bring communities together and making the de Young their home.” Current Artist Fellow, Lexa Walsh explains this engagement is especially crucial to her current project creating a map/timeline of the trajectory of contemporary art practice in the Bay Area. “For my research, I am working with loads of institutions and individuals, trying to connect the dots and expand my knowledge, which will become public knowledge through the exhibition and a web component. So really it is my job to connect to people and institutions large and small. My entire practice is about social engagement so it is imperative to me that I am constantly connecting…” she says. “I have been focusing on outside relationships first, knowing the museum is always there for me. In the next weeks I will be digging into the resources at the de Young and at Oakland Museum of California, tying it all together… Finally, there will be a very interactive component of my work in the Kimball gallery, where the public is invited to utilize my research and resources, add to the timeline, and take a try at taxonomy. The museum will be a place of making and demystifying the art process. I think this is the point of the residencies and of the Kimball.”

Interested in being an Artist-In-Residence at de Young Museum? Applications for 2015 are due April 1, 2014. Find out more here.
Artist Reception for Paper and Blade: Storytelling Under the Knife is March 28, 2014 during Friday Nights at the de Young.


Artist Fellow Adrienne Heloise working in the Kimball Gallery at de Young Museum, March 2014